Friday, 17 October 2014

M. R. Carey's 'The Girl With All the Gifts'

There are elements in 'The girl with all the gifts' that if I had known in the beginning I would never have picked it up. However, I did. And I read it. And given the elements that I tend to shy away from in such books (I can’t tell you in case it spoils the “surprise” for readers); I am incredibly proud of the fact that I finished this book. I am also surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it.
“The girl with all the gifts” is a dystopian novel about a young girl, Melanie, secured in a base by doctors, soldiers and psychologists for a reason that is not clear when first reading the book. Then one day, the base is overthrown and she escapes with a few other members from the base she has been holed up in. If you think that’s not much of a synopsis, you’d be right. But, like I said, I don’t know what would be a spoiler or not: so that’s all I’m going to give you. One thing I will tell you: this girl is very smart (hence a “gift” possibly referred to in the title).
No matter what is or is not given in my synopsis of this book, the emotional sense you gain from reading this book is very strong. The world that has decayed is felt throughout. It also has the sense that it is not too far from the future the reader could possibly know and so there is familiarity for the readers, no matter how unfamiliar Melanie feels once she is in the real world and off-base. I really enjoyed the sense of foreboding and hopelessness that comes from dystopian novels that remind people like me that humanity is not only fallible but mortal.
This is also why I found the characters very human; cementing Carey’s novel together. Characters are damaged physically, emotionally and psychologically and show the basic nature of mankind within this small group across the book. There is even enough history so you have solid pasts to characters, even more minor ones like Private Gallagher. So you won’t like every character you come across, but I’m okay with that. It reminds me of what the world is really like: what we are really like. And Carey does a splendid job of showing this through his characters.
Given that the cover, the back of the book and even the title doesn’t give anything away about this plot: I don’t want to go into too much detail in case you haven’t read it and really don’t want the spoilers. I didn’t find anything difficult about this book: I enjoyed the wholeness of the characters, the plot development and even the well-crafted writing so that readers don’t know everything all at once. Carey’s timing is spot-on. I also really liked the chapters giving Melanie’s perspective even through the third-person narrative Carey has written in. The tone in these chapters is very different to characters like Miss Justineau and Sergeant Parks, and it is a real credit that he writes her solidly and offers up a sense of intelligence as well as innocence from the character so fluidly.
So what do I really think? Though this isn’t my usual genre, and I won’t be going out to purchase other books in the same vein, I’m glad this book surprised me because I thought it was great. So I would read it if you enjoy dystopian novels, or even if you don’t. You might find this one surprising enough to enjoy it. There is some gore; however, so if you have a really weak stomach, maybe pass. Otherwise, just dig right in!
4.5 /5

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